Article by Gilbert Ngabo, Toronto Star
After the city took the unusual step of physically barring entry to four illegal cannabis dispensaries, one location has reopened — the hefty concrete blocks now stacked neatly beside the building.
Late Wednesday and early Thursday, workers from the city’s Municipal Licensing and Standards (MLS) department placed the blocks in front of the doors at each of the dispensaries — all of which were operating under the name “CAFE.”
It’s unclear who removed the blocks and how, but the CAFE cannabis dispensary at 104 Harbord St. was allowing customers back in by Thursday afternoon.
In an email, City of Toronto spokesperson Lyne Kyle said the MLS director of investigative services, Mark Sraga, confirmed the blocks had been removed.
“As the blocks belong to the City, this is considered theft. Toronto police are investigating,” said Kyle.
Sraga said that entering barred premises is a contravention of the Cannabis Control Act, according to Kyle.
“While the measure is rarely applied, the city says the use of concrete blocks is one of its more effective strategies to force compliance with closure orders when the operators would otherwise simply reopen their businesses.
“These people just blatantly violate the law,” said Sraga.
Sraga said bylaw enforcement officers had repeatedly visited and inspected the dispensaries as part of enforcement efforts. In addition to physically blocking access, officers also seized some products and laid a total of 70 charges, he said.
Under the Cannabis Control Act, a corporation found guilty of illegal cannabis operations can face penalties of up to $1 million, while individuals face a minimum fine of $10,000.
In an emailed statement to the Star, CAFE did not respond to questions about the charges it faces but said the business exists to fill “a necessary void.”
“It is without question that the Ontario Cannabis Store system and its subsequent rollout of cannabis retail in Ontario is flawed,” the unsigned statement said. “We are here to provide reasonable dignified access to the many Canadians who have come to rely on us.”